VI­BRANT PAST ON DIS­PLAY

The SBS cov­er­age of this year's Sydney Gay and Les­bian Mardi Gras prom­ises to be a fit­ting trib­ute to the iconic event’s 40th an­niver­sary

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - NEWS - SEANNA CRONIN

Sydney’s Gay and Les­bian Mardi Gras is primed to be one of the biggest par­ties of the year, and SBS has your all-ac­cess pass. The world-fa­mous pa­rade is in its 40th year, and if that wasn’t enough cause for cel­e­bra­tion it’s also the first to be held since mar­riage equal­ity was le­galised in Aus­tralia.

“Be­cause it is the 40th an­niver­sary, we’re go­ing on this walk down mem­ory lane if you like,” jour­nal­ist Pa­trick Ab­boud says. “We’ve found some incredible peo­ple who were part of some mile­stone mo­ments of the past four decades getting us to where we are (today).”

Ab­boud will co-host SBS’s cov­er­age along­side Yes cam­paigner and ac­tor Magda Szuban­ski and co­me­di­ans Joel Creasey and Urzila Carl­son. The live broad­cast, now in its fourth year on SBS, brings the mar­vel of the pa­rade into homes across the coun­try.

“There are thou­sands of peo­ple in small re­gional com­mu­ni­ties, and from di­verse back­grounds, who can’t be there to cel­e­brate or can’t be out and proud. The pro­gram takes it to them and makes them a part of it,” Ab­boud says.

But there’s much more to Mardi Gras than the cos­tumes, floats and co­pi­ous quan­ti­ties of glit­ter. Ab­boud says it sends an im­por­tant mes­sage of ac­cep­tance to iso­lated and marginalised LGBTQI peo­ple across the coun­try.

“When you turn on the TV and you don’t see some­one you can iden­tify with it makes you feel like it’s not OK to be you,” he says.

“The more we have that vis­i­bil­ity of gen­eral di­ver­sity on our screens and the wider me­dia land­scape then the more we’ll talk to those peo­ple who are re­ally struggling.

“When the broad­cast (of Mardi Gras) first went to air, I had peo­ple writ­ing to me per­son­ally. There was one letter in par­tic­u­lar from a young boy who is from a Mid­dle East­ern back­ground like me and he was con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide. He turned on the telly and saw this pro­gram, and he locked his bed­room door and put the vol­ume down and watched it. He wrote this incredible letter which said thank you so much for mak­ing me see it’s OK to be who I am. In some sense you’ve saved me. That’s what this does; it’s not just put­ting the spec­ta­cle and sparkle and glit­ter on screen.”

Ab­boud has spent the past few months work­ing on in­ter­views and fea­tures which will air dur­ing the broad­cast.

“A lot of the sto­ries you’ll see are go­ing back into a mo­ment in time at a par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion with the per­son who was there and them telling us from their per­spec­tive how it hap­pened,” he says.

“I took two of the most in­stru­men­tal peo­ple from the ’78 event back to the cells they’d been kept in that night for the first time in 40 years. These are in­cred­i­bly brave, resilient peo­ple with re­ally spe­cial sto­ries. More so than ever it’s im­por­tant to re­mind peo­ple we’ve had a re­ally gen­uine strug­gle.”

He will also in­ter­view head­line per­former Cher, whose mu­sic has been em­braced by gay and les­bian com­mu­ni­ties around the world.

“I can’t say I’m a mas­sive Cher fan, but I think it’s a great de­ci­sion to bring her out,” he says. “If some­one is go­ing to cel­e­brate 40 decades of Mardi Gras then it’s Cher. She’s iconic.

“She’s re­ally ballsy and has sass, so I’m cu­ri­ous to see what the show is go­ing to in­volve.”

Ab­boud hopes there will be just as much rev­elry in lounge rooms as in Kings Cross.

“Mardi Gras isn’t just for the queer com­mu­nity. It’s for ev­ery­one,” he says. “This is an incredible time to cel­e­brate. I think this year’s event will have a phoenix-ris­ing type feel­ing.” The 40th an­nual Sydney Mardi Gras airs on Sun­day at 8.30pm on SBS

Pa­trick Ab­boud, Joel Creasey, Magda Szuban­ski and Urzila Carl­son host SBS's cov­er­age of the Sydney Gay and Les­bian Mardi Gras.

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